2005 RECORD: 77-85 (Second in NL West - Did not make playoffs)
There are two ways to look at the Arizona Diamondbacks' 2005 season; either the cup is half full or half empty. The optimistic approach would be that they finished second in their division and got good play from some veterans, while their rookies showed that they have what it takes to hold down everyday jobs at the major league level. Conversely, the pessimistic view is that the team played in what could be the weakest division in the major leagues and that every other NL West team got better this offseason.
The Diamondbacks do have some young talent in 3B Chad Tracy and 1B Conor Jackson; they also brought in 2B Orlando Hudson from the Toronto Blue Jays as their new lead-off threat, although at the expense of their one previous legitimate power threat (ex-3B Troy Glaus). Their pitching is decent but nothing spectacular, mainly veterans who have been around the league one too many times. This should be another transition year as they have a new management team in place that will look to put their own stamp on the team.
1B Tony Clark had a comeback year last year, belting 30 home runs and knocking in 87 RBIs all while keeping his average at .304. However, he is getting no younger and the Diamondbacks should give 1B Conor Jackson a lengthy run-out at the corner infield position. Jackson possesses great plate discipline although he is not the threat that Clark is to go deep. This should be the most interesting battle by far as Arizona will look to balance the present with the future.
The rotation appears to be set. However, none of them can be considered a real ace. At the back of the rotation SP Brad Halsey has failed to impress in the majors and SP Miguel Batista is returning to starting pitching after a two-year hiatus as Toronto's closer. The sad thing is that at the moment Arizona has no real good young arms to step in and replace these guys. Meanwhile, Halsey figures to face spring competition from Claudio Vargas and Dustin Nippert.
The closer position is slated to be filled by RP Jose Valverde, who finished off last year as the closer and was solid, notching five saves in his last six appearances (the other appearance ended in a win for him). However, if healthy, RP Brandon Lyon (elbow) could eventually battle back into contention. Lyon was 14-of-15 in his save opportunities last year but missed three months due to elbow problems.
Despite being one of the Chicago White Sox' postseason heroes, SP Orlando Hernandez appears to be at the end of the line. "El Duque" is an old 36 and only pitched 128.1 innings last year. He was solid in the offseason but that was most likely his last hurrah and while he will come up with the occasional good start, he just can't get it done like he used to (as evidenced by his 5.12 ERA last year).
One wonders what happened with 1B Tony Clark last season, as he hit .304 with 30 home runs after not topping .232 and 16 home runs in any of the last three seasons. However, with the up-and-coming Jackson ahead of him at first base and his age beginning to be a concern expect Clark's numbers to drop off significantly this year.
COMING ON STRONG
With the departure of 3B Troy Glaus to Toronto, Arizona expects 3B Chad Tracy to fill his role both in the field and as the clean-up bat. Last season he proved he had what it takes to stay at this level at the plate, hitting for average (.308) and power (27 HRs). He has assured himself a spot in the line-up as the only real power threat and one of the top young players on the roster.
ON THE REBOUND
C Johnny Estrada was an All-Star catcher for the Braves not two years ago but he had his season last year derailed by a nasty plate collision and he never fully returned to form. This season he figures to get right back on track and should reach the heights of two years ago when he hit .314 to go along with 76 RBIs.
As mentioned above, Estrada will be coming back from a nasty collision last year which robbed him of 57 games, and Lyon will be seeking to prove he's overcome his elbow problems. Also, highly touted prospect OF Chris Young (hand) was expected to miss all or most of spring training after breaking his right hand early in February.
RP Brandon Lyon should be next in line for RP Jose Valverde's closer job, if healthy. Lyon had a 0-2 record with a 6.44 ERA and 14 saves last year. While he had a high ERA, that was primarily the result of some rough outings he encountered after trying to come back from his elbow injury in August and September. Prior to that, he had a 2.08 ERA in April and a 1.69 ERA in May. Finally, he only blew one save and is still young (27 this August).
OF Carlos Quentin could be a solid top of the lineup hitter for years to come. Last year he put up great all-around numbers with Triple-A Tucson, hitting .301 with 21 HRs and 89 RBIs. The only problem right now figures to be a lack of opportunity as each of the outfield positions are pretty well set.
SS Stephen Drew could see time right off the bat this year as incumbent SS Craig Counsell (shoulder) has a torn labrum and is considering season-ending surgery. Even if he were healthy enough to play, Counsell is not the greatest defensively at the position and does not have the on-base average that you want in a No. 1 or 2 hitter (.346 career OBP). Meanwhile, Drew can hit for power and average in addition to being solid defensively.
1) 2B Orlando Hudson (.271, 62 runs, 63 RBI)
2) SS Craig Counsell (.256, 85 runs, 26 SB)
3) LF Luis Gonzalez (.271, 24 HRs, 90 runs, 79 RBI)
4) 3B Chad Tracy (.308, 27 HRs, 73 runs, 72 RBI)
5) 1B Conor Jackson (.200, 2 HRs, 8 runs, 8 RBI)
6) RF Shawn Green (.286, 22 HRs, 87 runs, 73 RBI)
7) CF Eric Byrnes (.226, 10 HRs, 40 RBI) w/ OAK
8) C Johnny Estrada (.261, 31 runs, 39 RBI) w/ ATL
1) RHP Brandon Webb (14-12, 3.54 ERA)
2) RHP Orlando Hernandez (9-9, 5.12 ERA) w/ CHW
3) RHP Russ Ortiz (5-11, 6.89 ERA)
4) RHP Miguel Batista (5-8, 4.10 ERA) w/ TOR
5) LHP Brad Halsey (8-12, 4.61 ERA)
Middle Relief: Jason Grimsley, Luis Vizcaino
Setup: Brandon Lyon (0-2, 6.44 ERA, 14 saves)
Closer: Jose Valverde (3-4, 2.44 ERA, 15 saves)